April 25, 2017

Dolphins pre-draft poll: Which of these 7 possible 1st-round Miami selections would please you most? Vote now!; plus Pat Riley/Dion Waiters, Radio Tuesday, updated NHL forecast, Hot Button Daily (Tue) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is TUESDAY, April 25. It's NFL Draft Week! WOOO! 2) Wright Thompson has an excellent piece on Pat Riley in the new ESPNTheMag. Read it here. Also there's a Players Tribune piece penned by Heat's Dion Waiters. Find it here. 3) Happen to know any Dolfans? Delight them. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and also on TV on ESPNU or ESPN2. Join us.

ICYMI, our Sunday column on Jose Fernandez statue controversy: Many are against the Marlins building a statue to honor Fernandez since toxicology reports indicated he was impaired in the boat crash that killed himself and two others. I too am uneasy over the idea, and yet I see the potential for a greater good because the statue will be a constant reminder not only of his life, but of how it ended. Click on The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose to read.

DOLPHINS PRE-DRAFT POLL: WHICH OF SEVEN POSSIBLE MIAMI FIRST-ROUND PICKS AT 22ND OVERALL WOULD PLEASE YOU MOST?: My 26th annual official Miami Herald mock draft Dolclockcomes Dolphinsout very soon. I don't want to tip my hand (quite yet) on how the first round will play out for the Dolphins Thursday night (even though I have an idea). Instead, I invite you to have your say first. The seven players in this poll are not arbitrary. They are players who met both of two criteria: 1) They are at one of Miami's top-five position needs -- linebacker, guard, cornerback, safety or defensive tackle. 2) They are within range of the 22nd pick by being within five in either direction, 17th to 27th, according to the mock drafts of either Mel Kiper or Todd McShay of ESPN. In other words, these are guys who both should interest Miami in terms of need and who also could be available. I was tempted to add one more -- Canes tight end David Njoku -- but did not. I think he'll be gone, it isn't a dire position need, plus I didn't want a UM guy in there disproportionately glomming votes. I also do not include a "somebody else" category because I want to reel the vote in to what's most realistic. Photo at right: Dolphins on the clock. GET IT!?! Now take a dip in our poll, vote and check back often to watch a consensus magically form. It don't cost nuthin'.

NHL ROUND OF EIGHT FORECAST: The four NHL conference semifinal series begin Wednesday, and based on predictions by ESPN's 11-person hockey experts panel, we might expect three pretty clear-cut matchups and a tossup. The forecast is Rangers over Senators by a 10-1 margin, and a pair of 8-3 margins for Ducks over Oilers and Predators over Blues. The big one figures as Washington-Pittsburgh, with Capitals over Penguins by only a 6-5 experts margin. However betting odds via Bovada disagree on two of the series. Bovada has Anaheim-Edmonton even going in, and St. Louis a narrow pick over Nashville.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / TUE 4-25-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.: First night of three-game series that wraps up 9-game road trip.

2. NBA playoffs, 8 p.m.: Three 1st-round Game 5s, with only Houston in position to advance with win.

3. Hurricanes at FIU, 7 p.m.: Canes baseball is 0-2 this year vs. its rival and neighbors.

Select other recent columns: Everyone's Shouting Defense, But..., on Dolphins and first round. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 19, 2017

On Marlins statue for Jose Fernandez, and on proposed Dolphins trade for Richard Sherman. Two polls. Last day to vote!; plus Aaron Hernandez suicide, our tour of UM Sports Hall of Fame, Hot Button Daily (Wed) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, April 19. Know any Dolfans? Buy them joy. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, NBA playoff preview/predictions, Jose Fernandez documentary, your verdict on if Heat season was success & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On UM Sports Hall of Fame, Erik Spoelstra: My latest columns: Not even most Hurricanes fans have visited the UM Sports Hall of Fame (which held its 49th annual induction banquet last night), but it's a treasure trove worth a visit. Click on History Breathes at UM Sports Hall for my latest column. Also, seldom has a .500 record and no playoffs felt better than this Heat season did. ICYMI,click on Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph for my latest Sunday column.

POLL I: A MARLINS STATUE FOR JOSE: APPROPRIATE? OR INAPPROPRIATE?: There are '16' uniform patches being worn by players this season. But those are small, and temporary, and sort of for-the-team personal. Now, it Josefernhas been confirmed in recent reports, the Marlins plan later this season to erect a permanent 10-foot bronze statue of the late star Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident last September that killed two others. That's big, and public. This issue grew to complicated controversy by subsequent test results that indicated Fernandez was both behind the wheel that night and impaired by alcohol and cocaine -- that, in effect, he was responsible for his own death and those of two others. That, to many, casts a much different light on his legacy, and raises questions whether a statue is appropriate or not. Results were mixed recently when I asked about the uniform patches. Approval ran at 39.0 percent, disapproval at 32.4% and uncertainty at 28.6%. But a statue kicks the Marlins' honoring of Jose to a different, ultimate level. What do you think? Vote now:

POLL II: SHOULD DOLPHINS GIVE UP FIRST-ROUND PICK FOR RICHARD SHERMAN?: So says writer Bill Barnwell on ESPN.com. In an all-trades mock draft, he proposes that Miami gets RshermanSherman, the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, 29, from Seattle and gives up this year's No. 22 overall pick, next year's fourth-rounder, and CB Byron Maxwell. Says Barnwell: "The Dolphins aren't exactly shy about going after players they value, and they would be getting a massive upgrade at arguably the weakest position on their roster by trading for a future Hall of Fame cornerback in Sherman. Miami doesn't have a ton of cap room, but by packaging Maxwell and saving $3.5 million as part of the trade, the Dolphins should be able to squeeze the Stanford product onto their roster. Maxwell improved dramatically as the season went on in 2016, and he would give the Seahawks some semblance of familiarity as they rebuild at cornerback." Me: First let's tap brakes on Sherman unequivocally being Canton-bound. He's clearly better than Maxwell, but the difference of a first-round pick? And Dolphins have so many other needs. It isn't an implausible deal, but I'd hesitate. Now, your turn:

AhernandezAARON HERNANDEZ HANGS HIMSELF IN JAIL: Hernandez, the former Florida Gator and New England Patriots tight end, left no suicide note  but authored the final chapter of his own American tragedy in hanging himself in his jail cell overnight. [Full story here]. He used a bedsheet. He was 27. Apart from loved ones, few will shed tears or mourn his loss, except to shake heads at the waste. Hernandez was serving a life sentence without the chance of parole for a 2013 murder when he was acquitted of an unrelated double-murder just days ago. Hernandez had a bright future in the NFL before throwing it all away. In three seasons with the Pats he caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 TDs. He was good. Few will lament his loss. For many, it won't be "R.I.P." but more likely Rest In Hell. But I feel badly for everybody here. For the victims of his temper and derangement. For his loved ones. and for Hernandez himself -- for the mental demons that led to what he let himself become. Ultimately, he has only himself to blame. It's still a shame from every angle.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 4-19-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. NBA playoffs, 7 p.m.: Three more first-round Game 2s, including Golden State in nightcap.

2. Marlins at Seattle, 3:40 p.m.: Fish close first series of nine-game road trip after near no-hitter.

3. UEFA quarterfinals, 2:45 p.m.: Second leg for AS Monaco-Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona-Juventus.

4. NHL playoffs, 7 p.m.: Four first-round Game 4s as St. Louis, Anaheim seek advance via sweeps.

5. FAU at Hurricanes, 6 p.m.: UM baseball (17-19) still scrambling to get on right side of .500.

Select other recent columns: Heat Fell Short, But Didn't Fail, off season-ending game. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Dolphins Draft Wish List, on candidates for Miami's No. 1 pick. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 11, 2017

Marlins win Opening Night game 8-4 sandwiched around Heat's 2 biggest games of season. What a week!; plus Radio Tuesday, keepin' it Brockmire, Hot Button Daily (Tue) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is TUESDAY, April 11. Interesting piece here by Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan on the Marlins' financial status and how that could affect the interest of Derek Jeter and other potential buyers. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy each of them our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron at Heat in mad playoff fight, Hot Button Top 10, Panthers promote Tallon & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today for my regular Tuesday co-host gig on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and with the national show also televised on ESPNU or ESPN2.

Stanley Cup betting odds: NHL championship odds via Bovada show Chicago (4-1) and Washington (9-2) as near-even favorites, followed by Minnesota and Pittsburgh both at 8-1 and Columbus at 10-1.

HeatmarlinsMARLINS OPENING NIGHT, 2 BIGGEST HEAT GAMES OF SEASON MAKE IT A WILD WEEK IN MIAMI: [Update: Marlins clubbed the Braves tonight 8-4 behind Mracell Ozuna's two home runs and six RBIs and a heroic gray cat that got stuck in the Home Run Sculpture] Original post: Tonight the Marlins play the Braves in Miami's 25th home opener. Normally that would be the week's marquee event as the Fish are coming off a decent 3-3 road trip to start the season and tonight are honoring the anniversary of their 1997 championship team. But the Heat! The amazing, don't quit Heat kept their season and playoff hopes alive last night with an exhilarating 124-121 overtime home win over Cleveland  season (click on Miracle Season a Joy to Behold to read my column from the arena), and that earned Miami the right to still be in playoff contention entering the final game of the season here Wednesday. Now, it's simple. To be in the playoffs, the Heat must beat Washington Wednesday and hope either Indiana or Chicago lose. It's very possible that will happen. Heat are 3-0 vs. Wizards for some reason, and Washington doesn't need the game. And Pacers have a potentially tough finale. Details below:

7. Indiana Pacers 41-40: vs. Atlanta .525 Wednesday.

8. Chicago Bulls 40-41: vs. Brooklyn .247 Wednesday.

9. Miami Heat 40-41: vs. Washington .605 Wednesday.

Heat lose tiebreaker to Bulls but win tiebreaker over Pacers.

BrockmireKEEPIN' IT BROCKMIRE: I am loving the new IFC dark sitcom, Brockmire, about a disgraced, scandalized major-league play by play man trying to revive his career 10 years later in the lower minor leagues. Hank Azaria and Amanda Peet have terrific chemistry, the scripts are sharply written and the premise is plausible and intriguing. There also is an absurdity to it that is wonderful. And Azaria's Jim Brockmire is a wonderfully drawn character perfectly played. Highly recommended television.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / TUE 4-11-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Atlanta at Marlins, 7 p.m.: Play ball! Opening Night as Fish play first home game of 25th season.

2. UEFA Champions League, 2:45 p.m.: Barcelona-Juventus, Borussia Dortmund-AS Monaco in quarters.

3. Florida at Florida State, 6 p.m.: Ranked rivals play some baseball in Tally.

Select other recent columns: Dolphins Draft Wish List, on candidates for Miami's No. 1 pick. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Federer and Nadal Deliver, on Miami Open men's final. Always Dreaming, from Florida Derby. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. The Long Chase, on Dolphins' struggle to catch Patriots. Missing Waiters, on his value to Heat. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty CityLoria: The End Of An Error and Thank You, Edwin Pope.
 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 20, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes/NCAAs, Fernandez saga, Heat down to 8, viva Team USA!, tennis, Cats, cricket; plus Cote says thanks, Chuck Berry, your Jose verdict, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Chuckberry1) It is MONDAY, March 20. R.I.P., Chuck Berry (pictured in his latter years), the influential rock 'n roll guitar icon, gone over the weekend at age 90. Rest in Peace, Johnny B. Goode. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): We name our March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Love & Regret/Jose Fernandez saga with poll, UM men fall in NCAAs & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

'Cote's Coterie' lifts us to final four!: A late surge of support Sunday carried us past Mike Ryan and into the final four of Slice Miami's annual sports media poll. I'm now up against Amber Wilson in the semifinals. Uh oh. Click on Slice Miami Final Four to vote.

My bracket update: Still solid: As the NCAA Tournament pauses and exhales I stand tied for ninth place among some 90 entries in a LeBatard & Friends pool. I have 12 teams still alive in the Sweet 16. Is that pretty good? Or average? Took a hit though with Duke falling. I'd had the Devils reaching the (but not winning) the championship game. By the way, to this point, favorites (based on seeding) are 38-10, a 79.2 percent win rate. Once again, the Cinderella aspect of March Madness appears largely oversold.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES / NCAA TOURNAMENT: Miami makes quick exit from March Madness: An unexpectedly good season ended so badly for Canes men in a very disappointing 78-58 opening loss to Michigan State Friday night in Tulsa. How is your bracket looking as we arrived Sunday at the Sweet 16? Mine is a sieve leaking a torrent of my own tears. (It isn't, really. But it's funnier to say that...)

2. JOSE FERNANDEZ: State says Jose at wheel, caused crash: The story that couldn't possibly get any worse keeps getting worse. The latest: A report confirming Fernandez was at the wheel and to blame for fatal boat crash. Isn't a tragedy worst when you know it should never have happened? (Click on A Complicated Legacy for my column on latest development in saga).

3. HEAT: Can we please start a “We're No. 8!” chant?: Heat fell from 7th to 8th seed with Sunday's home loss to portland -- only the team's sixth loss in past 29 games. Meantime Dwyane Wade is out for the rest of season in Chicago, another reminder Heat seems more and more right to have let Wade go.

4. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Stanton homers as Team USA wins, makes final four: Americans beat Dominican Republic late Saturday in San Diego, 6-3, led by Marlin Giancarlo Stanton's go-ahead home run. Winner-take-all game eliminated D.R. and lifted U.S. to WBC championship round at Dodger Stadium and a semifinal vs. Japan. Team USA has never won this event. "Can you believe it?" said a clearly annoyed Abner Doubleday. Let's gooooo States!

5. TENNIS: Miami Open begins on Key Biscayne: Andy Murray and especially Serena Williams are among major withdrawals with injuries for the two-week event starting Monday. I feel like Serena is so good she could at least reach the semifinals playing on crutches. Meantime, IMG, which owns the event, assures it will remain on Key Biscayne long-term. That means the Miami Open has won the Miami Open.

6. UM WOMEN: Canes win NCAA opener, carry banner for UM hoops: Miami survived upset-minded Florida Gulf Coast, 62-60, at home Saturday in its NCAA Tournament opener and will now face Quinnipiac Monday night 9, home again. What the Hurricanes men failed to do, the women did: Avoid a one-and-done.

7. PANTHERS: Don't write Cats off yet. Almost. But not yet: Florida is six points off NHL playoff pace with only 11 games left after getting spanked 4-0 Sunday in Pittsburgh. Somewhere between simply needing a lot of luck and needing a miracle rest the Panthers' chances.   

8. BOXING: Mayweather-McGregor penciled in for September: The hype has begun with Conor McGregor saying he's going to "shock the world" and win by boxing against heavily favored Floyd Mayweather in their mixed boxing/UFC bout rumored for September. Am I alone in wishing there were a way they both could lose?

9. NFL FREE AGENCY: Report: Teams awary of Kaepernick because of Trump: An AFC GM said teams are hesitant to sign available QB Colin Kaepernick for fear of a an onslaught of negative Tweets from Donald Trump. And in other free agency news, the Dolphins have done pretty good so far but not quite as good as the Patriots. Or did that go without saying?  

10. CRICKET: India beats Australia, I think: Actual lead of news story I read Sunday morning: "RANCHI, India (AP) -- A 199-run seventh-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha gave India a 152-run lead after they declared their first innings at 603-9 against Australia on Sunday." Anyone who has any idea what any of that means, would you please keep it to yourself?

Missing the HB10 cut: Congrats to our blog's March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Ken Whiteley of Chattanooga, Tennessee ..... Canes baseball fell to 8-13 Saturday. Sorry to place you below cricket, Jim Morris, but until you start winning, no Top 10 for you! ..... NASCAR runs today in Phoenix. It will be loud. I won't watch. 

Poll result: Shaky support for Marlins honoring Fernandez with uniform patch: We asked if, in light of this week's report putting Jose Fernandez behind the wheel of the fatal boat crash that killed him and two others, it still is appropriate that the Marlins this season to wear a uniform patch honoring Jose. The results: 39.2 percent "Yes. Because of all he meant to Miami and to the Marlins." "No. Not when he caused the tragedy that took two other lives"; and 28.0% "Not sure. I can see both sides." That's a plurality who still favor the patch, but roughly another 60% who are against it or have misgivings. 

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-20-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Quinnipiac at Hurricanes, 9:10 p.m.: UM women host 2nd-round game for spot in Sweep 16.

2. Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico, 9 p.m.: First World Baseball Classic semifinal game from L.A.

3. Miami Open tennis, 10 p.m.: Main draw starts Tuesday, but qualifying matches happening today.

4. Marlins vs. Braves, 1:05 p.m.: Spring game in Lake Buena Vista.

Select recent columns: A Complicated Legacy, the latest, on developments in the Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on the NCAA Tournament. D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 18, 2017

Results of 2017 March Madness Haiku Challenge right here!; plus, with latest news, is it appropriate for Marlins to honor Jose Fernandez with uniform patch? Poll. Last day to vote!; also, Canes one-n-done, my bracket update, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Stpatricksday1) It is SATURDAY, March 18. Hope y'all had a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Like I need an excuse to drink!? 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge with Canes-in-NCAAs poll, Miami snubbed on best-sports-colleges list & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Hurricanes one-and-done in NCAA Tournament: A positive, surprising, better-than-expected season for UM men's basketball ended with a crash and a thud last night in Tulsa, in a 78-58 loss to Michigan State in Miami's first game of the NCAA Tournament. Canes led by a 12 early before the bottom fell out. Now the women carry the banner for UM hoops, with Katie Meier's crew debuting today at home vs. Florida Gulf Coast.

My bracket update: After round-of-64 play and entering Saturday's games I have 27 of 32 teams still alive and stand tied for sixth among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends men's NCAA Tournament pool. Offsetting my losses I have nailed four notable seed-upsets so far with 12-Middle Tennessee, 12-Rhode Island, 11-Xavier and 10-Wichita State.

IT'S 17 SYLLABLES OF MYSTICAL LOVE AS WE CROWN 2017 MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: Our blog's 10th annual Haiku Challenge enjoyed a great response with 141 entries --  121 of which were actual haikus and eligible. Thanks to all who played along! The ones we liked best:

Special mention: To Ryan Meyer, a poet/professor who adapted from the famous Japanese poet Basho to write: "An old silent pond / Past a field of sixty-eight / Splash! Taste the feeling."

HaikuHonorable mention: To Reuben Rubalcava, for: "The madness is here / Let's crack open some dark beers / The heartbreak is here."   To Elliott Gelfand, for: "Brackets call to us / We succumb to the madness / Buzzers will be beat."   To our 2016 champion John Flannery, for "Skipping out of work / Rooting hard for underdogs / Dear God please not Duke."   To Ronald Kinzel, for: "I enjoy haikus / But sometimes they don't make sense / Jim Larranaga."   And to Andrew McTague, for: "It's that time again / Perhaps a crying flute girl / Dick Vitale, baby."

Third place: To Justin Regas, for: "Forget the Plumlees / Coach K 'back' on his high horse / sweep the leg, Grayson."

Second place: To Ryan Rodenhauser, for: "Ups and downs this year / Like Larranaga's en'e / Canes will close on top."

FIRST PLACE: KEN WHITELEY, CHATTANOOGA, TN, for: "Fill out your bracket / Cheer for teams you've never seen / Cinderella dies."  

Congrats, Ken. The judges appreciated the 5-7-5 structure, the simplicity, and the underlying allusion to the inherent ludicrousness of investing so much emotion into teams we've never watched when, for 99 percent of us, our bracket ends if destruction and dnd death."

Ken, email me at the same address to which you submitted your entry and we'll come up with a prize suitable to you. Thanks again to all who played! Once again congratulations to Ken Whiteley, our 2017 俳句チャンピオン!

LATEST COLUMN: LOVE & REGRET: THE COMPLICATED LEGACY OF JOSE FERNANDEZ: Yesterday investigators revealed Fernandez was at the wheel of his boat, impaired by alcohol and cocaine Joseand speeding, the night of the fatal September crash that took three lives including his own. Click on A Complicated Legacy for my latest column on this. It is now clear and official that Fernandez's own recklessness primarily was responsible for this tragedy. Does it change the way you feel? Should it? The Marlins plan to go ahead with honoring Fernandez in various ways this coming season (though not on Opening Night, I am told) and with uniform patches with his number worn throughout the season. I have mixed emotions. The Marlins are honoring the life of a Miami hero, especially to Cuban-Americans, and of a star pitcher lost too soon. But can that be so neatly separated from the fact Jose's own illegal recklessness that night caused this tragedy that involved two other families? There are no easy answers here, and I do not claim to have the right one. But I did want to invite your opinion in light of Thursday's 46-page report implicating Fernandez as the cause of the tragedy.

Poll result: Canes must at least win tonight to call season a success: We asked what Miami Hurricanes men's team must do in NCAA Tournament to call this a successful season. The results: "Win at least one game to avoid fast exit," 46.3 percent; "Season already a success based on expectations," 31.2%; and "Win two games to at least reach Sweet 16," 22.5%.
 
HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 3-18-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Florida Gulf Coast at Hurricanes, 3:30 p.m.: UM women make NCAA Tournament debut at home.

2. Team USA vs. Dominican Republic, 10 p.m.: World Baseball Classic game could tell who reaches semis.

3. NCAA Tournament, 12:10 p.m.: Day's eight men's games include FSU at 6:10, Florida at 8:40.

4. Marlins vs. Detroit, 1:05 p.m.: Fish travel for spring game in Lakeland.

5. Hurricanes at North Carolina State, 6:30 p.m.: UM baseball in ACC game. 

Select other recent columns: A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on the NCAA Tournament. D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 16, 2017

NCAA Tournament begins, last day to enter March Madness Haiku Challenge! Details here; plus Hurricanes-in-tourney poll (last day to vote), our NCAAs preview column, Eric Hosmer, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, March 16. Team USA's Eric Hosmer, born in Cooper City and from American Heritage High, hit the go-ahead 2-run homer in last night's huge 4-2 win over Venezuela in second round of World Baseball Classic. Local boy makes (really) good. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, onus on Team USA in WBC, Smokey Robinson review & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

"Happy 104th, Mae Riback!"

Column: Loving the Madness: I used to be a March Madness agnostic who made fun of Bracketheads, but I have slowly come around on why people love the NCAA Tournament so much. Click on A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness for my latest column. 

HaikuOH NO! IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 12TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: We expect the entries to be pouring in like a tsunami, by which I mean we expect a few, or perhaps even several. We have done the Haiku Challenge for as long as we've had this blog and it is back for tradition's sake and by unpopular demand. I say unpopular because many of you are intimidated by this contest, or simply do not agree that nothing captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient VitaleJapanese short-form poetry. I do not do this for the masses, but for the select, chosen few who await the contest every year with relish. It's sort of like a restaurant menu that offers liver. Few like it, but the few who do love it. You may know that a haiku is a 17-syllable poem (not 16! not 18!) and that ideally it's in 5-7-5 structure. But we're loose with the structure. Rhyming? Fine, but not necessary.

Three simple but hard-fast rules:

1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, college hoops or the  Miami Hurricanes, it's a valid entry. (Tip: 'Larranaga' burns four syllables).

2. You may submit entries ONLY one of two ways: via email to gcote@miamiherald.com, or via Twitter @gregcote with the hashtag #Haiku. You may enter as many haikus as you wish.

3. Entries will be accepted from now through 5 p.m. today/Thursday, with winner announced in the blog Friday morning. (We are getting an unusually big response this year so shutting entries down sooner than first expected).

Prize, you ask? I dunno, maybe a Dolphins media guide or something equally crappy? We'll figure something out. Don't do it for the prize. Do it for the sheer glory and to flex your creativity and inner-Zen. OK, ready? Get the mind revving. The entry window has banged open. Haiku!

MIAMI SNUBBED ON 'BEST COLLEGES FOR SPORTS' LIST: Money magazine and Sports Illustrated together have come out with a Top 100 list of "Best Colleges for Sports Lovers." Top five are Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan, Duke and Virginia. Florida fares well at No. 7. Florida State at least makes it at No. 64. Miami Hurricanes? Nope. Nada. Click here for the complete Top 100 and methodology.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / THU 3-16-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. NCAA Tournament, 12:15: With first of day's 16 men's games including Gators at 3:10, 'Noles at 9:20.

2. Panthers at Columbus, 7 p.m.: Was 7-2 rout of Toronto start of late Cats surge?

3. Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic, 10 p.m.: World Baseball Classic 2nd-round game from Diego.

Select other recent columns: D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 13, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Starring Canes and Selection Sunday, Team USA collapse, white-hot Heat, ice-cold Cats, El Clasico; plus didn't we invent baseball?, concert review (Smokey Robinson), Lorde, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, March 13. Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Thank you Mae Riback, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, Canes out in ACCs, ESPN analyst slams Dolphins for Stills/Branch deals, how/why 'The Ballad Of 1440' happened & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

NCAA title odds by conference: Via Bovada today, odds on which conference will produce the men's NCAA Tournament national champion: ACC 11-4, Pac-12 7-2, Big 12 19-4, Big East 6-1, SEC 19-2, Big Ten 22-1, field (any other conference) 19-2.

LordeMy sweet Lorde: Really like Lorde and like her new song, "Green Light," that she performed on SNL last night. Click here to see the song's official video. Side note: Lorde is 20. In the video, for reasons unknown and as pictured, she looks 40.

ICYMI: Thank you, Mae Riback: This was a recent short human-interest column about my finally meeting my oldest fan, and it has gotten an extraordinary outpouring of positive response. If you missed it, click on Thank you, Mae Riback to read. 

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NCAA TOURNAMENT: Hurricanes to face Michigan State in opener: Selection Sunday set the 68-team men's NCAA Tournament field last evening, including a Miami Hurricanes vs. Michigan State first-round matchup Friday night at 9:20 p.m. in the Midwest regional in Tulsa. Canes, 8-seeds, have opened as 2-point favorites over the 9-seed Spartans. So. Ready? "Gentlemen (and ladies) ... start ... your ... brackets!"

2. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Team USA, Dominicans advance: Four-team round robin play at Marlins Park ended Sunday night with the U.S. and Dominican Republic advancing to the next round of the WBC. The D.R. is defending champion while underachieving Team USA has never won a WBC title or even medaled. Um, didn't we invent baseball!? Tick-tock, fellas. Represent, dammit!

3. HEAT: Miami still 1 back in playoff chase: Heat is on a 21-5 run even after losing at Indiana Sunday as it awaits a five-game homestand starting Wednesday, but still is 1 game back of the 8th seed and playoff pace. Meanwhile coach-of-the-year talk has begun for Erik Spoelstra. That's the plus side of starting 11-30. Nowhere to go but up.

4. SOCCER: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona confirmed for Miami: Months of rumors are now reality. “El Clasico,” the best rivalry in international club soccer, is coming to Hard Rock Stadium July 29. Major event? I'd liken it to a Super Bowl, but that might flatter the NFL. (Barcelona, by the way, just engineered the greatest comeback in Champions League history in overcoming a 4-0 hole to oust Paris St. Germain).

5. NFL: Dolphins busy as free agency underway: Miami spent big to keep S Reshad Jones and WR Kenny Stills as free agency began, and also signed former Pro Bowl LB Lawrence Timmons and reacquired TE Anthony Fasano. A team that made the playoffs for first time since 2008 is acting like it's serious about building something. Dolfans call that "a pleasant change."

6. PANTHERS: Reeling Cats sink from playoff race: Florida made it eight losses in past nine games in falling at Tampa Bay Saturday and now is seven points off NHL playoff pace. There is a phrase for chances Cats still make the postseason. It is, "Miracle on Ice." 
 
7. UM WOMEN: It's Selection Monday for Katie Meier's Canes: Women's NCAA field materializes this evening, and 16th-ranked Canes expect to be around a No. 5 regional seed. UM women have shaky history in NCAAs, so pressure will be on.
 
8. TONY ROMO: What's happening with poor Tony?: They're trading him. They're not trading him. What the Dallas Cowboys do with unseated veteran quarterback Tony Romo has become the biggest drama of NFL free agency.
 
9. NASCAR: Truex wins Las Vegas: Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday's NASCAR race. Gee, you think a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway had any bets placed on it? Now Vegas is getting the Oakland Raiders too as the line between gambling and sports fades to non-existence.
 
10. CANES BASEBALL: Sunday win eases rough start for UM: Once-ranked Miami is now 5-9 after beating Georgia Tech to take two of three in its ACC home series. That's still only 3-9 since a 2-0 start for Jim Morris' guys. Oy.

Missing the HB10 cut: Nothing personal, UFC, but are people really supposed to be excited by a "Belfort vs. Gastelum" fight? ..... Although at least they actually fought. It's still all talk on Mayweather vs. McGregor, and probably will be for months ..... Did you all spring forward one hour? Line of the day seen on Twitter but funny only to the anti-Trump crowd: "Can we please spring forward four years?"

"LET'S GOOOOOOOO STATES!" TIME FOR TEAM USA TO REMIND WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC WHO INVENTED THIS SPORT: [Update: After a blown-lead loss to the Dominican Republic the U.S. beat Canada on Sunday to advance in the WBC] Original post: This is the fourth World Baseball Classic going on, with first-round WbcmiamiMiami games at Marlins Park, as well as in Seoul, Tokyo and Jalisco, Mexico. The United States team has yet to win a WBC championship or even earn any sort of medal by finishing in the top three. It is a disappointment bordering on embarrassment. Team USA manager Jim Leyland (the former Marlins championship skipper) bristles at the topic, but it is real. How can the country that invented baseball watch Japan (in 2006 and '09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) win WBC titles when the American team always has so many more major-leaguers as a national-team talent pool? This is the subject of today's latest column by me. Click on Time For Team USA To Win This Thing to read. The U.S. (featuring Marlins Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich) rallied to beat Colombia last night 3-2 in 10 innings. Tonight at 6:30 comes the WBC's signature game for Miami: U.S. vs. defending champ Dominican Republic in a sold-out game. The Americans can secure an advance to the second round by winning. Crowd will be raucous and the stakes high. Supposedly the crowd will be pro-Dominican. We'll see. Can't wait.

CONCERT REVIEW: SMOKEY ROBINSON: A LOT TO LIKE, BUT...: Wife and I went to see Motown icon Smokey Robinson earlier this week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. I was Smokeynever a super-fan. My appreciation of what we used to call soul music from that era tended more towards the grittier sound of Stax/Memphis than the more polished stuff coming out of Motown/Detroit. I'll take the funk of Al Green and The Staple Singers, thanks. Still, I try to see legendary performers I have never seen, and wanted to check Smokey off that list. As a solo performer or with the Miracles, he's a Hall of Famer whose career I respect. The first half of the show did not disappoint. He performed all of the familiar hits, and very well, his distinctive voice still clear and strong. He engaged with the audience. I learned that a few famous songs by others, like "My Girl" by the Temptations, were written by Smokey. Also learned that his signature hit, "Tears Of a Clown," happened because Stevie Wonder had written the music and gave it to Smokey. Great stuff. Alas, the second half of the show dragged when Robinson got into a bunch of slow jams and morphed into romantic/sexy mode, complete with hip grinds. Umm, how to say this delicately? Smokey, sir, you're 77 now. Your voice and songs are enough.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-13-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Selection Monday, 7 p.m.: Women's turn as NCAA Tournament field set for Canes, others.

2. Marlins vs. New York Mets, 1:10 p.m.: Spring game in Port St. Lucie.

3. Manchester United vs. Chelsea, 3:30 p.m.: FA cup soccer match.

4. Netherlands vs. Israel, 6 a.m.: World Baseball Classic second-round game.

Select recent columns: D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic last night. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

ICYMI: 'THE BALLAD OF 1440': A final spin of our new autobiographical song...

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 10, 2017

Thank you, Mae Riback. Story of how I (finally) met my oldest fan; plus Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP race, Canes await Selection Sunday, Dolphins bashed for Stills/Branch deals, background on why 'Ballad Of 1440' happened, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is FRIDAY, March 10. Who is panicking more right now: the fading Panthers, losers of six of past seven and now six points back in NHL playoff chase? Or Jim Morris, whose baseball Canes are 2-8 since starting 2-0? 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): "The Ballad of 1440" video debut, the dead we forgot (Ghost Tour addendum), Jimmy Buffett's retirement communities, Marlins odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Canes blown out in ACC quarters, await Selection Sunday: UM lost Thursday 78-53 to top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. Nobody except super freshman Bruce Brown (21 points) scored in double figures for UM. Canes had beaten Syracuse 62-57 on Saturday led by two  men who know Brooklyn well in coach Jim Larranaga and senior forward Kamari Murphy. Click on At Home in Brooklyn for my column off Saturday's win. Next: Selection Sunday should find Miami a mid-seed for NCAA Tournament, with an 8 vs. 9 opener most likely.

THANK YOU, MAE RIBACK: There are no "average readers." The story of most every life is a tale worth telling, which brings us to Mae Riback of Hollywood. Next week she will turn 104 -- still alert, still reading the Miami Herald daily, still turning to the sports section first. She had written me a lovely letter in late 2015, kind words in appreciation of my writing. She said how she Tinyhad read me for decades, told me I should write a book. She apologized for tremors in her penmanship, noting she was then 102. Her letter sat in a cardboard box, unseen, for 18 months. I rarely visit my office, and almost never answer envelope mail, because readers reach me by email 95 percent of the time. But on a recent visit to our Doral building I went through old mail that had accumulated, tossing most of it but somehow drawn to open this one envelope. Guilt overrode me. Here this centenarian had taken time to write such a kind letter, and I had ignored it! Eighteen months later, as I finally wrote back, I dreaded I might be too late. I cannot tell you who was happier when she called me on the number I'd given. We met this week, at the Hollywood apartment she shares with a fulltime aide in the Hillcrest area. Her handshake was unexpectedly firm. She uses a walker and struggles to hear but is sharp, and looked 20 years younger than I'd imagined. I gave her a copy of my Herald book, "Fins At 50," which I'd signed. She has been a Dolphins fan for years. ("But they annoy me lately!" she said). Ms. Riback was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. but moved here in 1971 after a 25-year career teaching phys-ed. She loved tennis and golf, so retiring with her husband to South Florida was a dream. Her aide produces a Sept. 30, 1950 page from The Grossinger Times with Mae "Tiny" Riback in a headline for having won a tennis tournament. Only 0.02 percent of Americans live to be 100. I asked how she explains her longevity. "I played. I moved all the time," she said. "Tennis I was best at, but sports, to me, were No. 1." Her racket is retired now but she remains active. Plays bridge every week. Reads the Herald voraciously, devours CNN or CNBC to stay up on current events. We parted with another strong handshake, and this time she asked me to lean down so she might kiss my cheek. She was was delighted by our meeting, and said she'd tell everyone she knew all about it. Tiny, the pleasure and honor were mine. [Click on Thank You, Mae Riback to see the column as it appears online

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (65 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 31-34 after Wednesday night's home win over Charlotte, here's The Luddite's 13th installment, with 60-game rank in parentheses.

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (65 games):

Luddite1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,869

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,721

3. James Johnson (3)          1,207

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,189

5. Dion Waiters (5)               994

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      674

7. Wayne Ellington (7)         651

8. Josh Richardson (9)         561

9. Willie Reed (8)                558

10. Luke Babbitt (10)          421

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 154, Udonis Haslem 72.

ESPN ANALYST SLAMS DOLPHINS' RE-SIGNING OF STILLS, BRANCH: While some in the local media genuflect over the Dolphins re-signing their own free agents in receiver Kenny Stills (pictured) and defensive end Andre Branch, at least one prominent ESPN analyst slams the deals. Bill Barnwell grades each a "D+" (ouch) in this analysis of early free-agent activity. (Teams may begin signing others' unrestricted free agents beginning at 4 p.m. today). An excerpt/synopsis of Barnwell's criticism of the Stills deal: "Miami shelled out $20 million in guarantees as part of a four-year, $3e2 million deal to bring its third wideout back to South Florida. The Dolphins are bringing back a player coming off a nine-touchdown season, one that isn't Stillssupported by usage rate and is almost guaranteed to regress toward the mean. In terms of total production during his two seasons with the Dolphins, Stills is 77th in the league in receptions and 57th in receiving yards. Nobody's expecting him to catch a high percentage of his passes because he is thrown so many deep balls, but Stills has the fifth-worst catch rate in the league among guys with 100 or more targets the past two seasons, at 47.9 percent. Because it takes so many passes for him to hook up with his quarterback, the Dolphins generate only 8.1 yards per Stills target, which is 35th in the league. Unless the Dolphins target Stills more, he isn't going to offer much of a return on this deal. Where are those targets coming from? Jarvis Landry probably isn't going anywhere. DeVante Parker has at least two years left on his rookie deal and has looked brilliant when healthy. The Dolphins committed to a run-heavy approach once Jay Ajayi got the starting job last season. This is the same organization that traded three picks, including their third- and fourth-round selections in the 2017 draft, to move up and grab Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo in April. Carroo now has no path to a meaningful role in the offense one year after he was worth what amounted to a mid-second-round pick off draft capital. Carroo might very well be a bust, but it's both too early to judge and a horrible sign for Miami's ability to gauge talent if he's a sure-fire failure after one season. Mike Tannenbaum is paying for the player the Dolphins want Stills to be, which is something approximating DeSean Jackson. At 24, Stills could develop into that sort of player, but he hasn't been that guy yet in his career. This is a receiver who has one 100-yard game (and that was exactly 100 yards) in his time with the Dolphins, a wideout who did most of his damage against average-or-worse pass defenses, such as those of the Bills, Browns, Bengals, 49ers and Jets last season. That's a guy worth taking a shot on, but even in this inflated market, $20 million in guarantees is an exorbitant sum." Now, Barnwell's criticism of the Branch deal: "The Dolphins have one of the league's most expensive defensive lines, anchored by two elite players in Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. They wanted a third pass-rusher last offseason and paid a premium for Mario Williams while quietly adding Branch, a former Jaguars bust, on a one-year, $2.5 million deal to serve as a backup. Williams busted in spectacular (if predictable) fashion, while Branch was a useful reserve, racking up 5.5 sacks and 12 hits on 430 pass rush attempts. You would think that the Dolphins would figure that most players are going to look effective playing next to two Hall of Fame-caliber defenders and allow Branch to leave while signing the next buy-low opportunity to play alongside Suh and Wake. Instead, the Dolphins paid a hefty premium to keep Branch around, giving him $27 million over three years. Much depends on the structure of this deal, but in a draft exceedingly deep in pass-rushers, Miami likely overpaid to hold onto a player whom it could have replaced at a fraction of the cost." My take: Somewhere between the local fawning and Barnwell's harsh view is the truth. The Dolphins kept two very useful players in Stills and Branch ... but paid dearly, likely paid too much.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 3-10-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Minnesota at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.: Fading Cats have lost 6 of 7, now 6 points off NHL playoff pace.

2. United States vs. Colombia, 6 p.m.: U.S. opener in World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park.

3. ACC Tournament semifinals, 7 p.m.: It's Duke-North Carolina and then Florida State-Notre Dame.

4. Florida vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.: No. 2-seed Gators men debut in SEC Tournament in Nashville.

5. Georgia Tech at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball, off to 4-8 start, hosts ACC opener.

'THE BALLAD OF 1440': HOW, WHY IT HAPPENED: "Greg, why are you standing in your very messy garage, appearing in a very homemade video and singing while wearing a suit and cowboy hat?" It is a reasonable question. Why the suit and hat is hard to answer. I guess I just felt like it, and wanted something that might stand out visually. The rest of it is easier to answer. I have 1440always enjoyed singing, which is not the same as claiming I have a good voice, which I do not. (I have an earnest voice that means well). "The Singing Sportswriter" used to be an alter-ego of mine on Dan LeBatard's radio show as I'd write what were meant to be humorous parodies related to sports. A few years ago I recorded a serious song, called "Letting Go," that my late friend Alan Cherry had written. This new song, "The Ballad Of 1440," was borne of nostalgia, wistfulness and gratitude. The newspaper business, socked hard, is working hard to reinvent itself. I have grown old enough to have retirement now on the back burner. My mentor, Edwin Pope, just died. These things together led me to reflect on growing up and falling into the career I did -- how unexpected that was, and how lucky I am. I happened to hear an old and obscure song called "Muswell Hillbilly" and though the structure would adapt well to autobiographical lyrics I could write. "1440" is the street address where I grew up in Hollywood, Florida, and the song is about how I'll always be that little barefoot, lower-middle-class kid who was the first in his family to go to college. The video, shot by my oldest son Christopher, includes opening and closing credits (with a dedication), and is interspersed with several old family photos of me when I was a boy. The song may be hard for some to take seriously -- it is, after all, me singing in a messy garage wearing a cowboy hat! -- but know that the sentiment behind it is genuine. This is meant as a thank-you to a lot of people who have helped me along the way, including our most loyal and longtime Miami Herald readers and radio listeners. I hope you enjoy it and in case you missed it,the video is below:

Select recent columns: Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. At Home in Brooklyn, on UM's win over Syracuse in ACC tourney. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame Club.  NFL's Arrested Development.  The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 08, 2017

My new autobiographical song, "The Ballad Of 1440," is out. Watch video here!; plus The Dead We Forgot (a Ghost Tour addendum), revealing Canes basketball, Marlins betting odds, Jimmy Buffett's old-folks home, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, March 8. Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your NFL Scouting Combine verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Marlins, NL East odds: This is further indication, new via Bovada, that Miami is seen as mid-pack in its division. Odds of winning the NL East this season: Nationals 5-7, Mets 8-5, Marlins 12-1, Braves 16-1 and Phillies 20-1.

My latest column: Now we see how good Canes basketball really is: The Miami Hurricanes' men's and women's basketball teams are having good seasons. But how good are they? How close to special? March knows, and tells all. Click on Now We Find Out About UM Hoops to read my latest column.

THIS IS 'THE BALLAD OF 1440': Been telling you for awhile we had an autobiographical song coming out. Well, we posted "The Ballad Of 1440" on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube late last night, and now here's the video in my blog. It's personal and it's serious, with opening and closing credits and boyhood photos interspersed. The reaction has been good. I hope you enjoy it:

THE DEAD WE FORGOT: AN ADDENDUM TO OUR 'GHOST TOUR' COLUMN: We got an unusually great reaction to our recent A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past column. Nostalgia is good. ManateesPeople love to reminisce. But dozens of e-mailers pointed out a few defunct Miami sports teams I hadn't mentioned. My meandering was never meant to be an A-to-Z, comprehensive list. Nevertheless, you took the time to write me, so I'm taking he time to pass along what you said. So: A toast, please... To the Miami Manatees, a still-born Canadian Football League team proposed to begin play at the Orange Bowl in 1996, until the CFL suspended its foray into U.S. markets that spring. To the Gold Coast Suns, managed by Earl Weaver and a charter member of the Miami-based Senior Professional Baseball League, which played a 1989-90 season and then folded midway through season two. To the Miami Tropics, which played in 1987-88 and 1991-93 in the USBL (United States Basketball League), and won championship in 1987 and '92-93. To the Miami Sun Sox, which won 1950 and '52 championships in baseball's Florida International League, and to the Miami Beach Flamingos of that league. And last but least (!), to the Miami Caliente, who undied their way through the 2009-10 season in the women's Lingerie Football League.

BuffettJIMMY BUFFETT'S OLD FOLKS' HOME: I saw this headline, laughed out loud, and it made perfect sense. "Jimmy Buffett to Open Margaritaville Retirement Communities." Of course he is. (Here for more). It's for people "55 and better," and the first oldies enclave is set to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. It is geared to his aging demographic of fans -- Parrotheads. In other words, everyone in the place will be wearing Hawaiiian shirts and flying Salt Life stickers. Give Jimmy credit. Under the laid-back facade is a land shark who knows how to make money.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 3-8-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Hurricanes vs. Syracuse, noon: UM men make ACC Tournament debut in Brooklyn.

2. Charlotte at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Hot Miami still is 1 1/2 games off playoff pace.

3. Hurricanes at FIU, 7 p.m.: Bad-starting baseball Canes (now 4-7) are close to desperate.

4. FAU vs. Marshall, 8 p.m.: Owls debut in men's CUSA Tournament (FIU did not qualify).

Select other recent columns: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame ClubNFL's Arrested DevelopmentThe Wonder of Coach LIt's What's Great About SportsThe Miracle of Liberty CityIs Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! Loria: The End Of An ErrorThank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 01, 2017

PopeFest: Thanks for making celebration of Edwin Pope a huge success! Sharing thoughts and videos; plus over/under on Marlins wins, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (60 games), my NFL player-arrests column, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, March 1. Happy new month, all! 2) You a Dolfan? Know any? Buy our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, World OutGames Miami, your Tannehill vs. 3 options verdict, Seinfeld on his game & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Over/under on Marlins wins: MLB victory over/unders via Bovada find Cubs on top at 95.5. In NL East it's Nationals 90.5, Mets 88.5, Marlins 76.5, and Braves and Phillies both 73.5.

My latest column: NFL still all over map on arrested players: The NFL has banned certain player with arrest histories from this week's Scouting Combine, but will welcome those same into its draft. College and pro football could get serious on this if they chose, but it's easier (and self-serving) to just pretend to care. Click on NFL's Arrested Development for my latest column.

Popefest2'EDWIN POPE DAY' IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CRESCENDOS WITH CELEBRATION: Thanks to the hundreds who showed up last night for PopeFest at The Clevelander/Marlins Park -- a celebration of the life and career of the late, great Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope. Dan LeBatard and I were pleased to co-host the event in honor of our great friend and mentor. Guests included championship football coach Howard Schnellenberger, Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese, Miami-Dade School Board icon G. Holmes Braddock, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dave Barry, sports broadcasting's Hank Goldberg, ESPN's Amin Elhassan and king of Liberty City Luther (Uncle Luke) Campbell, in addition to Heat, Dolphins and Orange Bowl Committee officials. The crowd also includes readers, of course, folks who never met Edwin but felt like they knew him through his writing. Evening highlights included the proclamation of "Edwin Pope Day" by Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez. Here are couple of videos from last night.

Video 1: LeBatard, Cote and Hank Goldberg share thoughts and feelings about Edwin Pope:

Video 2: Cote welcomes the crowd, mayor proclaims "Edwin Pope Day":

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (60 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 27-33 after Monday night's 96-89 loss at Dallas, here's The Luddite's 12th installment, with 55-game rank in parentheses.

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (60 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,734

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,580

3. James Johnson (3)          1,120

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,107

5. Dion Waiters (5)               885

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      626

7. Wayne Ellington (7)         562

8. Willie Reed (9)                523

9. Josh Richardson (8)         495

10. Luke Babbitt (11)          370

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 120, Udonis Haslem 72.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 3-1-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Philadelphia at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Miami enters game 2 back of 8th place in playoff chase.

2. Marlins at Houston, 1:05 p.m.: Spring game vs. Astros in West Palm Beach.

3. Arkansas at Gators, 7 p.m.: No. 12 UF men in next-to-last regular season game.

4. ACC women's tournament, 1 p.m.: In Conway, S.C., with UM Hurricanes' first game Thursday.

5. NHL trade deadline, 3 p.m.: But no big Panthers deals expected.

Select other recent columns: The Wonder of Coach L, off Canes' win over Duke, on job Jim Larranaga has done this season. It's What's Great About Sports, on Heat and Panthers' concurrent surge. The Miracle of Liberty City, on how youth football there is about more than scoring TDs. Also: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! Loria: The End Of An Error. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote